Four Areas Indiana Must Invest In To Close The Skills Gap

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Often dubbed the Silicon Valley of the Midwest, Indianapolis has quickly become a notable tech hub. The city, which added nearly 9,200 digital service jobs between 2010 and 2015 - more than that of the metro areas of Cincinnati, Columbus, Ohio and Louisville combined - is also home to prominent tech companies such as Salesforce, Sharpen, PERQ and countless more to come.

However, with the city’s tremendous growth in the tech sector also comes a major skills gap, leaving many companies with unfilled jobs. In fact, recent findings show that 500,000 tech job postings went unfilled at the end of 2017 nationwide. If many companies are in dire need of employees, why aren’t they finding them?

Much research points to unqualified and undereducated applicants. With a need for a relevant tech ecosystem, Indiana must close the skills gap and position the state for future success by investing in the following four areas.

Inspire

While Indiana is full of endless opportunities for residents, many have their sights set elsewhere. In order to further expand tech growth in the state, and to close the skills gap, Indiana must inspire their residents. Inspiration should start early and occur often.

Residents should be made aware of the opportunities that lie, quite literally, next door, and focus efforts on changing’s perceptions of Indiana to retain top talent.

For many, they believe they have to leave the state to advance their tech career, then come back and raise a family. We need to break down this belief that you have to go somewhere else to be successful, when all the opportunities people need are right here. We should inspire and inform the next generation on all that Indiana has to offer.

Launch

While it’s important to provide professionals with tools for success, it’s equally important to empower individuals and afford them the confidence to achieve their goals.

In an era where “thinking” is emphasized over “doing,” many professionals aren’t prepared for many of the relevant skills the workforce requires. By providing professionals with the skills necessary for success, we can help launch their careers. 

Additionally, it’s important that unique opportunities are granted to groups who don’t have as easy of access to education. For example, veterans. Similar as to what Eleven Fifty Academy and schools such as Indiana University have done, they’ve begun accepting GI Bill funds. Through programs such as these, we’re able to propel veterans into their professional careers by covering the costs associated with education and training.

Another group worth focusing on is those who don’t attend or finish college. With these individuals falling further behind than ever, it’s critical we find a way to invest and prepare this group for their careers. More importantly, we must decide who will give up valuable resources to support and train these individuals, as many aren’t willing to, despite the ever-growing need to.

Train

Despite some claims, education in America isn’t broken, it’s imbalanced. Our antiquated educational business model is rapidly falling behind in its ability to deliver the skills required of the workforce. Still, there are several ways we can train individuals to meet the needs of today’s employers. Nontraditional education, such as immersive training programs, is one great way to meet those requirements.

Maintain

Another valuable way we can close the skills gap is by maintaining and regularly updating education. Educational programs should be evaluated on a consistent basis to ensure the best education possible. The current curriculum review is measured in years, however, that no longer works, and won’t work in the future.

Furthermore, educators should seek input from employers to develop meaningful and relevant education. Educators should also listen closely to employers’ needs. These two groups don’t always “speak the same language,” so it can sometimes be difficult to parlay these needs into educational lessons.

As one of the top technical skills academies in the country, we offer robust courses with a job placement rate of 90 percent. I strongly encourage Hoosiers to take full advantage of all the gems in our state, not just at our academy, but with the countless programs available right in our own backyards.

In order to preserve the dynamic Indianapolis tech scene, it’s essential Hoosiers focus on investing in professionals to close the skills gap and position the state for future success. Together, we can create a strong, technology-focused community full of capable and well prepared professionals.

John Qualls is president of Eleven Fifty Academy.

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